Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Laid Plans of Mice And Men...Or The View From My Bed

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One of the most famous phrases in literature, as well as the title of this post,  comes from Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse, 1786. It tells of how he, while ploughing a field, upturned a mouse's nest.

The resulting poem is an apology to the mouse:
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy.
The poem is of course the source for the title of John Steinbeck's 1937 novel - Of Mice and Men.

You may wonder why at this festive time of the year I may be thinking about this famous line.  The answer is simple...I am sick as a dog, right in the middle of the holidays, and all my carefully laid plans have gone the way of the ashtray.   Luckily I was able to make it through my birthday  but soon thereafter the clear symptoms of a bad flu came on like gangbusters.  This meant my party with the neighbors and Christmas Eve with the grandchildren had to be cancelled.  At the rate I am going New Years Eve is up in the air.  Which got me thinking....

What is a hostess to do if she comes down with the flu before a party? 

In my case, the decision was rather easy.  I have often attended and hosted parties at the tail end of a cold, particularly if I had outside help.  The problem of hosting a dinner party on your own is that your little fingers are touching everything you are preparing to serve and you certainly do not want to be responsible for contaminating your guests.   If you are sneezing and coughing  guess what, all your germs are airborne!

I was lucky that this year's pre Christmas Eve party was a small one with intimate friends.  On the morning of the party a phone call was made, the situation explained,  and both parties decided postponing for a day or two was the right thing to do.  Yesterday when I saw that my condition would not improve any time soon, the uncooked ducks were sent out to my guests, together with some of the hors d'oeuvres, wine and Christmas cookies.  I couldn't think of anything else to make up for the disappointment of having to cancel at the last minute.  I felt so bad, in a moment of delusion, I even thought of sending along some of the family silver.

Incidentally, had I contracted outside help,  I would have also honored my commitment, tip included.

This is the first time I have ever had to cancel a dinner party but, under the circumstances, I think I did the right thing.  Has this ever happened to you? If so, what did you do? I wonder what Elsa Maxwell would have done.  She would have probably gone on with the whole thing and received her guests in her boudoir wearing a fancy peignoir, a hilarious thought given her looks.  Which leads me to another observation....

When I am sick and have to spend inordinate amounts of time in bed, I usually have two books going, a crossword puzzle and a movie to watch in between.  I don't know about you,  but nothing keeps my attention for long when I'm ill and cranky.  This time around I read a great book and a fun book,  both of which I highly recommend.  The great book is Former People,the Final Days Of the Russian Aristocracy a real tour de force, well written and well  researched;  and the fun book is Inventing Elsa Maxwell, How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood and The Press.

Trust me,only a couple of page turners like these will keep your mind from thinking how bad you are feeling.  The movie was Hemingway and Gellhorn with Nicole Kidman and a yummy Clive Owen, an HBO movie about the writer's relationship and marriage to correspondent Martha Gellhorn, the only woman to ever ask him for a divorce.  Highly entertaining and the perfect kind of movie  for when you are sick in bed.  A no brainer.  Now if only I could find another one like it......

Needless to say, the chances of getting a recipe from me before next year are slim, unless you are thinking of chicken soup and I just might do that.

So that's the view from my bed on Thursday, December 27, 2012, Day 7 of the flu.


  1. Sorry to hear of your'flu. I'd be rather pleased with myself for having found a good excuse for missing Christmas, but then I'm just a spoil sport! Hope you're feeling better soon. I'm sure after 7 days you're well on the way to recovery, and will be swinging from the chandeliers on New Year's Eve.

    1. Columnist,

      The bad part is that I went through the worst of Christmas (getting ready, buying and wrapping presents, cooking, baking, you name it) and was not able to enjoy the best part, Christmas morning with the grandchildren. Oh well...

  2. Being sick is NO FUN!!! And I would have done the same -- re cancelling the dinner party! Hope you are feeling better soon so that you can ring in 2013!

  3. Do feel better-a book cures many ills. It does seem the worst time to be sick, never a good time-I firmly believe in pampering oneself and letting it go-and I do hate people that can not do so and spread every germ they've had since childhood about! I love the Burns poem and oddly enough have it featured in a post about Scottish houses next week! Must read the Russian aristocracy book. Feel better-a hot toddy should help. pgt

    1. Thanks Gaye, a hot toddy never hurts! Do pick up that book, it's an amazing story, well researched and well written.

  4. I'm so sorry that you are not feeling well, and that you had to cancel your party; at least we were able to hear about it in advance, so, unlike your guests, your readers were still able to enjoy it.

    Please rest up, and also have a Happy New Year.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Thanks Parnassus and stay away from those Taiwanese Santas...I hear they are spreading the flu!

  5. Hope the visit to the doctor last night gave you a new lease on life. Or help from the big pharma. Miss you much. Not the same driving down the street knowing you are unwell.
    Pate and caviar will wait.

    1. Hi neighbor,

      Do keep that pate an caviar on ice. I can't wait! Big pharma helping some.

  6. You absolutely did the right thing. You were, in fact, very gracious. No one wants to get sick, and you certainly can't help being sick yourself. That being said, I hope you feel much better soon.

    1. Yes little by little I am improving. Thank you.

  7. It's happened to me twice -- and each time I kept to my bed while the party went on downstairs. Once, the food and drink was so good and plentiful that no one seemed to notice my absence. The other time, someone had come a great distance largely to see me, so it was very awkward. (The first time it was flu, the second it was food poisoning contracted the night before at The Inn at Little Washington.)

    My usual remedy is 40-year-old Armagnac, administered internally.

    Get well, and Happy New Year.

    1. Hi Ancient,

      Long time...

      Had it been a large party I probably would have done the same as you, what the heck everything had been paid for already why not go through with it.

      I see you haven't forgiven the Inn for the food poisoning...Happy New Year to you as well.

  8. Lindaraxa,
    I was so sorry to read you are not feeling well at all and think you did exactly the right thing. Actually your sending the ducks and other goodies out to your guests was so extra-sweet and thoughtful and very Christmassy! Now it is time to relax and cosset yourself so you can feel better! Lots of rest is needed! I just love your posts and recipes.

    With best wishes for the New Year,


    1. Dear Francie,

      Yeah, I kinda thought so myself...but then again it's Christmas. Missy would have done the same no?

      Happy New Year dear friend!

  9. Julieta, they say that Misery Loves Company,--so I will admit that I, who took to my bed several days ago,
    felt a strange lifting of the spirits after reading this post. How generous of you, to send off the better part
    of your menu to other households! As for passing the time while trying to recover, it seems to me that a screening
    of Merchant/Ivory films can be, in its own way, as beneficial as chicken soup. Get well soon, my dear.

    1. Toby, the only part that worries me about your message is the word "several" which usually means more than 10! I am now in Day 9 and though a tad better, it doesn't look like I am going to be out of bed for New Year's either. I hope those ducks fly both ways!

      Merchant Ivory is just the right genre, especially with our weather which has been cloudy and rainy and yuck, like me. Will try to find one that I haven't watched multiple times.

      I hope you feel better dear friend and yes, I understand perfectly, misery loves company. Happy New Year!

  10. So sorry to hear you are down with the flu. What a bummer! Hope you feel better soon.
    You did the right thing, nothing worse than having all your friends infected. So kind of you to send the ducks and the rest of dinner to the guests. What a great idea.
    Get well soon my friend.xsxs

    1. Sandra dear, it is no fun, particularly in our age bracket. Worst part is K and I had been planning for so long. Oh well, January is a long month. xoxo

  11. Dear Julieta, I hope you are feeling better by now. Without a doubt, it is better to rest and try for a speedy recovery than to 'soldier on' and have the illness linger. Best wishes
    __ John T

  12. Dear John,I guess better is relative. At least I'm now able to stay out of bed for a couple of hours and today I washed my hair! Unfortunately, New Year's Eve does not look promising. Wishing you all the best for next year


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